Lewinsky recalled as typical go-getter Interns happily work 40- to 60-hour weeks for no money

January 22, 1998|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF Susan Baer and David Folkenflik of The Sun's national staff contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- As an intern who spent most of her days slogging through constituent mail in the basement of a government office building next to the White House, Shannon Joyce remembers how much she and fellow intern Monica Lewinsky used to relish the chances they got to run errands down the powerful corridors and off-limits hallways of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

"If you're 20 years old and you walk into the West Wing of the White House, it's hard not to be star-struck -- I was, she [Lewinsky] was, everybody was," says Joyce, 22, a George Washington University student who in 1995 interned with Lewinsky in the correspondence office for then-chief of staff Leon E. Panetta.

"You're 20 years old and you're working next to these world leaders -- every now and then you just go, 'Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! I can't believe it.' "

But this Girl Scout image of interning at the White House took on a different cast yesterday amid charges that President Clinton urged Lewinsky to lie to lawyers for Paula Corbin Jones and deny an alleged 1 1/2 -year affair with him.

Lewinsky, who was 21 when she started as a White House intern in 1995, was later hired permanently by the administration.

From all appearances, Lewinsky seemed to her co-workers to be a rather typical intern.

Neither Joyce or Michelle Von Euw, another former intern,

remembered Lewinsky's mentioning a personal relationship with Clinton or leading an unusual life in the office.

"She didn't stand out," said Von Euw, 23, who shared a work with Lewinsky, a garrulous brunette. "No one suspected anything out of the ordinary."

Lewinsky had mentioned to Joyce that she met Clinton at a birthday party for the president in 1995 to which other interns had been invited, Joyce said. She later took a job in the Office of Legislative Affairs, a position that offers greater access to the Oval Office.

A snappily dressed psychology major with a wide smile, she attended the swank Beverly Hills High School and a prep school before graduating from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., in the spring of 1995.

Lewinsky, the daughter of a Los Angeles-area oncologist, raised eyebrows among other interns because she was making no money, yet lived with her mother at the luxurious Watergate apartment building, co-workers said.

Like so many other interns at the White House, Lewinsky was a Democrat who admired Clinton's political beliefs. A hard worker, she told her co-workers she was eager to parlay her internship into a permanent White House job.

"The only thing I really remember about her is that she really wanted a full-time job at the White House," said Von Euw.

"It was discussed among the interns -- that there were these interns who were working 40- to 60-hour weeks for no money."

Lewinsky was one of hundreds of young go-getters who descend on Washington every year to offer free labor to the administration in exchange for a chance to beef up their resumes.

Many of these interns, planted squarely at the bottom of the White House food chain, can go an entire semester without so much as glimpsing the president and his top aides.

In fact, some former interns say they were told that if they tried to approach the president to shake his hand, they would run the risk of being considered "stalkers."

The White House receives a batch of about 250 interns four times a year. The interns are branded with pink badges bearing the letter "I" for intern, meaning they cannot enter the West Wing without a senior staffer.

Although intern horror stories abound -- such as the intern who got fired after faxing a fraternity newsletter on White House stationery -- the trusted workers get promoted.

Despite other opportunities, Lewinsky was eager to stay at the White House.

She was offered a junior public affairs position at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations after being interviewed by U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson in October 1997, Richardson's spokesman, Calvin Mitchell, said in a statement yesterday. But Lewinsky turned down the job.

As a White House intern, Lewinsky tried to stay away from the incessant photocopying and coffee-fetching that occupied many of her counterparts.

She volunteered to answer phones during the government shutdowns in 1995, took quick lunches and tried to make herself indispensable, Joyce said. Still, her access to the White House was limited, since neither had the coveted "hard passes" that can get staffers inside the West Wing, Joyce said.

Like other interns, Lewinsky arrived on the job looking professional -- she dressed in stylish outfits, her long dark brown hair pulled back from her forehead, a full face of makeup at all times, with an outgoing and talkative manner, Joyce said.

Lewinsky got a break in the fall of 1995, when her supervisor, Tracy Bobowick, recommended that she interview for a job in the Office of Legislative Affairs for the White House, Joyce said.

Lewinsky did, and came back to her desk in the basement of the Old Executive Office Building thrilled at the prospect of the job, Joyce said.

"She was ecstatic -- she wrote a thank-you note right away," said Joyce.

That job, which Lewinsky started in December, reportedly required her to deliver correspondence to the Oval Office. After a period in this post, Lewinsky moved on to become an assistant to Kenneth Bacon, the Pentagon spokesman, for which she was ultimately paid an annual salary of $32,736.

At the Pentagon she met Linda R. Tripp, another press office worker. Tripp befriended her, offered her career advice and also allegedly taped her conversations about her purported affair with Clinton.

She left that job in December. Although she was expected to take a job at cosmetic giant Revlon in New York, the company abruptly withdrew the offer.

Pub Date: 1/22/98

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